Ask a Mexican

Can Mexicans be vegetarians?

Dear Mexican: Do you agree with gente who think you can't be vegetarian if you're Mexican because meat is an essential part of our diet? I've heard this argument three times within the last 24 hours, from two blogs and the Today show. I think it's babosadas. My parents growing up in Zacatecas only had meat on Friday when the pollero came knockin', or other rare occurrences.
Cuaresma Chica

Dear Lenten Girl: Of course it's babosadas. A Mexican can eat a perfectly fine vegan diet — nopales, tortillas, and all the wonderful vegetables of Mexico, from chayotes to huauzontle to beans, chiles and more — and still be as raza as Cuauhtémoc.The traditional indigenous diet didn't include too much meat, and it definitely didn't include any beef, pork, goat, lamb or chicken, as those animals weren't native to the New World. Yet those are the very meats those anti-vegetarian braggarts cite, in the form of carne asada, chorizo, birria, barbacoa and pollo rostizado, when they claim Mexicans can't live on a carne-free diet. These are the same pendejos who say they're puro mexicano while downing a Bohemia (named after the Czech immigrants who revolutionized Mexico's beer industry...alongside the Germans), eating their bolillos (introduced by the French) and tacos al pastor (brought in by Lebanese immigrants).

Dear Mexican: Why are so many young Mexicans in gangs? And why do they love to graffiti everything, even their own apartment building? I see too damn much of this in the Los Angeles area. ¿Qué pasa?
El Virgin de 50 Anos

Dear Virgin of 50 Anuses: Let's not pussyfoot around the issue. The National Gang Center's 2011 National Youth Gang Survey found that 46.2 of all gang members in the United States were Latinos, by far the largest percentage among ethnic groups in this country. But if you take the 367,000-plus documented gang members in the U.S. and put that over the 34 million people of Mexican descent here, it only amounts to barely 1 percent of all Mexicans in this country — 1 percent too many, but hardly the epidemic Know Nothings make out the gang problem to be among Mexican-Americans. (Keep in mind, too, that the Latino-gangs figure doesn't differentiate by national origin, meaning the cholo figure in our equation is artificially inflated thanks to Dominican, Puerto Rican and Salvadoran gangs). Then consider that gangs have existed among young immigrant men, especially in urban areas, since the founding of the Republic, and you wonder why there aren't more Mexican chicos in gangs. But you asked why they join, so rent Gangs of New York, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Godfather and all that desmadre for the answer.

BUY LOWRITING!: I'm thrilled to announce the release of Lowriting: Shots, Rides and Stories From the Chicano Soul, an anthology of essays, poems and stories about lowriders by authors famous (Luis J. Rodríguez, Luis Alberto Urrea) and not (yours truly wrote about my 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, called "El Caballo Blanco" after the José Alfredo Jiménez standard) combined with the amazing photography of Los Angeles photographer Art Meza, perhaps the coolest librarian you'll ever meet not affiliated with the Fullerton Public Library. A fine collection for anyone interested in great prose, great photography or the current state of the Chicano soul. Order your copy through and BUY BUY BUY!

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano